While biking around Savannah we stopped at a number of interesting places. One of them is the Candler Oak. It’s very cool to see something alive today that was also alive hundreds of years ago (like some old history teachers!). This tree is older than the U.S!
During its lifetime, the Candler Oak has seen many changes in the area. In 1791, the Georgia State Legislature granted five acres of land surrounding the mighty oak to be used for a seaman’s hospital. The hospital was constructed in 1803 and was in use until 1818. In 1819, a new structure, The Savannah Poor House and Hospital, was built on the land and was in use until 1854 when it was converted to serve as the headquarters for the Medical College of Georgia. During the Civil War, the hospital was used by the Confederacy until it was captured by General Sherman. Sherman used the hospital to treat his own soldiers and constructed a barricade around the tree to house wounded Confederate prisoners. In 1930, the site was returned to service as the Warren A. Candler Hospital which operated until 1980. Huntingdon II, Ltd. purchased the building where community health care organizations continued to operate until 2000.
After years of stress, the Candler Oak was in serious decline with a life expectancy of less than 20 years. In 1982, the first preservation project of Savannah Tree Foundation (STF) was to save this historic tree. The group made history by securing the first conservation easement on a single tree in the nation. This 6,804 sq. ft. easement was established in 1984 to protect the Candler Oak from loss to development. Huntingdon II, Ltd. donated the easement to the STF so that the tree could receive proper care in order to arrest its declining health. In 1985 the asphalt was removed from the root area to revive the tree and a comprehensive schedule of maintenance, including soil tests, has been faithfully followed. The tree is watered, mulched and fertilized as needed. Under the watchful eye of the Savannah Tree Foundation, the tree has rebounded and could continue to live for many years. A development company bought the old hospital building a few years ago, intending to turn it into condos. But they needed to expand the parking area and asked permission to cut down the tree. Well, the tree still stands and the building is still empty!
Not far away is the oldest house in Georgia, the Herb House, which is now part of an old pub, the Pirates’ House Restaurant. We stopped in for their lunch buffet and a look around. The server not only provides food service, but also acts as a historian and tells the story of the restaurant.
When the English first arrived and established the city, they set aside ten acres as an experimental garden to test what kind of crops would grow best in the area. The Herb House served as the home and stable for the gardener. Later, more rooms were added and in 1753 it became an inn for sailors and a meeting point for pirates. Legend has it that many a sailor drinking in the pub woke up the next day on a ship bound for a port half a world away. One story has a Savannah policeman and stopping by for a drink and awoke to find himself on a “slow boat to China” and took two years to work his way back home.
We visited Savannah a few years ago on the motorcycle in July and stayed for about 20 hours (man, was it hot ! ! !). The temperature this time around has been much more comfortable during the day (but cold at night).